Friday, February 25, 2011

My God

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I was raised by smart, strong-minded folks who took me to a Roman Catholic Church with baggies of Cheerios when I was a girl. Told me to sit tight and listen. I would. I remember watching my father charismatically project the Old and New Testaments from the lectern, his slight Boston accent peeking through his diction.  I remember the veteran in the parking lot who sold Tootsie Rolls for $1 after mass. I remember running across the parking lot to the parish hall for free fruit punch and glazed doughnuts.  When the public schools went to shit in my town, I remember my parents gathering all the money they could to enroll my three siblings and I in a small Catholic grade School. Twenty years later, I cannot help but believe that God is out there or in here or everywhere and I just need to look a little harder.

This past Christmas Eve, I went to church with my family. It was the first mass I had attended since the previous Christmas Eve. I went for tradition and I went in hope of finding peace and/or truth. Within the privacy of my pressed palms, I did find peace, but never much truth. Instead I felt like an impostor, an outsider, silently refusing to accept the common Catholic vows extended and reminded to me by the robed priest on his decorated altar. At the last minute, I even decided to stay seated beside my Jewish husband during Communion, which caused my sister to cast strange looks upon me as she climbed over my knees to reach the aisle.

The little truth I did find was in the brief moment of Peace (the part of mass when everyone in the congregation is instructed to turn toward one another with extended hands and say, "Peace be with you.") When this happened on Christmas Eve, everyone in the church suddenly awoke from their nearly sleeping states and began to look around them. Fathers began kissing the foreheads and cheeks of their daughters, children sillily shook the hands of other children, and elders gently clasped hands with other elders. But then, as quickly as the energy entered the church, it escaped. The entire congregation returned their bodies to stiff solitude, looking to the man on the altar for his next instruction to sit, stand, kneel or pray. 

That spark is all I care to study and experience. My God is that fading spark, those invisible strings, that human connection that ties us all together. For what, if not human connection, is more invasive and more vital to humans than air? I fear I live in a world of belligerently selfish zombies where fried food, hallucinogenic drugs and cheap alcohol are taking the place of real relationships. Glazed eyes, drowning livers, and hardening hearts are steering the barely living into ditches of dazed existences leaving me surrounded by holes. My moments pile and topple around me, filling my heart with memories of emotions that feel more real than buildings, armies and screaming teapots. And I know that if everyone could clearly see the moments that become their lives, which in turn become their human contribution to the atmosphere's emotional layer (which is perhaps the most holey of all layers), everyone would all feel an incredible obligation to wake up and contribute to the human race rather than continue to separate themselves from it.  

For thousands of years people have been classifying themselves through religion, occupation, family name, nationality, race and/or political stance. With our intelligent feelings, we want to understand our life and we often start by trying to understand and organize our personal traits. I believe this is all quite natural. Or at least, I hope it is, for as you can see I write memoir essays and would classify myself as a continuously curious self-classifier. In fact, I've attempted to know myself so much that I can no longer attempt classification because I know that it is all irrelevant unless I know the context, who my company is. For instance, in some company, I can be a boisterous comedian while in other company, I am a shy, shifty-eyed social diver. I don’t know where this urge comes from to simplify everything. To say who I am, how I am, or what I am. To put my poor personality quirks into categorized boxes like medical records or doughnuts. But I know that it is part of what makes me human. I went to church as a kid. That information goes in the box labeled FAITH. Many people had folks who took them to a Catholic Church as well, while many others were brought to a Mosque, Temple or to Grandmas for a weekly Sunday brunch. Everyone is on their own quest to know who their god is, if they want to believe in the presence of a higher power, and it is no one's place to convert anyone who is not looking to be converted. Besides your God is not my God and my God is most certainly not your God. This discussion isn't even something to be right about. It’s all so subjective. My God is made up of invisible ribbons. You can't tell me that isn't true. It's what I believe. And anyone’s accusations that someone is worshiping the "wrong" god is in need of a deep exploration of his or her own prejudices.

These days, I am rarely inside Roman Catholic Churches and yet I feel beholden to my parents for dressing me in those precious girly dresses and patent leather shoes, giving me bags of cereal and telling me to sit tight and listen. I did. I won’t forget. Maybe one day I’ll regret these hippy dippy religious bullshit words from my twenties, but for now and in this company, a hippy dippy bullshitter is how I want to classify myself. 

Peace be with you.